NGO Documents for the Earth Summit, 1992
Non-Governmental Organization Alternative Treaties
at the '92 Global Forum
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Treaty 10. Code of Conduct for NGOs
1. The following represents the work of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
working from late 1991 through the NGO Conference in Paris, the outcomes of the Agenda Ya
Wananchi, from meeting during the New York PrepCom and in the intervening months up to and
including the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro in June, 1992.
2. The goal of this NGO Code of Conduct process is to eventually have a Code that NGOs
can sign on to.
3. We pledge to continue to engage in the process to analyze and deepen this activity
and make recommendations that groups may adopt.
4. There has been a dramatic growth of community groups and NGOs during the past 10
years. The work of community and citizen groups and organisations and NGOs now constitutes
the best option for citizen action to change the forces against a sustainable future.
5. In order to build up our constituency base, to truly serve the people within our
community/organization, certain ethical and accountable agreements need to be
6. An NGO Code of Conduct could contain the following principles:
7. National and local NGOs (in North and South) should:
a. be rooted in issues at home
b. have some definable constituency or membership
c. have open democratic working systems, gender parity, consultative problem-solving,
d. have clear conflict of interest guidelines
e. have a code of ethics for staff
f. publish an annual report and audited financial statements
g. be non-profit, non-party political
h. foster justice and equity, alleviate poverty and preserve cultural integrity
i. endeavor to enhance the total environment physical, biological and human
j. have a fair wage structure, with a credible scale between highest and lowest paid
k. be truly with people and not impose their agendas on them
l. base all their work on the resources available to the people, their expertise,
existing institutions, culture and religions; be self-sufficient while remaining open to
the assistance offered by their various partners
m. avoid being corrupted both materially and spiritually
n. facilitate people's efforts
o. share information with all members; set up necessary mechanisms to gather and
exchange experiences; and get actively involved in environmental education
(awareness-building) and training
p. articulate a broad political framework and code of ethics to guide their internal
operations and their work with community groups and people's organisations, as well as
their relations with the South, NGOs and the North
q. ensure the highest levels of accountability, starting with their own constituencies
the people. This includes uncompromising evaluations involving the participation of the
8. Northern and Southern NGOs often have non-project or non-funding based
relationships. Generally, these relationships are the basis for campaigns to protest
certain social or environmental problems in a Northern or Southern country; or the
campaigns may be on international issues, like the World Bank's Global Environmental
9. This treaty should be designed to make clear the process of consultation and
decision-making among all the participants to facilitate a process of dialogue between
Northern and Southern NGOs on campaigns. At this point, we have only questions, not
a. The overriding principle this treaty seeks to ensure is consultation among NGOs
before anyone takes a position that might affect another. But that is not as easy as it
b. If a group in one country sends out an international action alert about a problem in
its country, what obligation does it have to first assure that there is a consensus among
the NGOs in that country about that problem? Conversely, what obligation has a group that
receives an action alert to first assure that the alert is the result of a consensus
position in the country of origin before responding to the action alert?
c. Who has the obligation to compile a reasonable list of NGOs in each country (without
a list it is not possible for groups elsewhere to consult with NGOs in one country before
taking positions on issues that might affect that country)?
d. What constitutes reasonable consultation? How many groups is 'enough'?
e. How long should the consultation process be allowed to take? Can deadlines be set
for responses if there is a hearing or legislative action coming up? What if there is no
response is that consultation?
f. Can a contact person be chosen in each region or country to facilitate
communications and consultation? How would that person be chosen? In a crisis, may that
person speak for their constituency without consultation?
g. What if groups within a region disagree? Who gets listened to? What if regions
Declaration of Solidarity
10. Before making public expression of solidarity for NGOs and individuals a proper
consultation process should be undertaken to ensure the safety of the affected parties.
Regarding NGOs working outside their country
11. Northern and Southern NGOs should collaborate on the basis of:
a. equitable and genuine partnership
b. two-way flow of all information, ideas and experiences
c. financial transparency.
12. Southern NGOs not Northern NGOs have the major responsibility for activities within
their own countries.
13. Northern NGOs when working in the South must have transparent advisory systems
within the country of operation; there must be transparent criteria for selection of
14. Northern NGOs should monitor Northern government/corporate activity in their host
15. Northern NGOs in their host country should live in an appropriate comparative level
as counterpart NGOs, not in expatriate style.
16. Northern NGOs should develop effective policy on international issues.
17. Because development groups get most of their funding from their national
governments, most Northern NGOs hardly question the policies and activities of their
governments in the South. On the contrary, they have become accessories to the hidden
agendas pursued by their governments and transnational corporations in gaining control
over the resources of the South. In order for Northern NGOs to be able to forge genuine
people-to-people solidarity, they should:
a. build a relationship that is based on mutual respect and collaboration as equal
partners, and that fosters self-determination and self-reliance
b. use their comparative advantage of easy access to information and pass it on to
their partners in the South
c. challenge their governments and educate the public in order to change the prevailing
inequitable international economic order and development paradigms which have been largely
responsible for the deteriorating global environment
d. campaign for genuine grassroots democracy in their own countries
e. campaign for sustainable life-styles based on their own local resources as much as
possible, and paying fair (ecological) prices for imported products.
Action Plan for Follow-Up
18. Regional focal points to publicize and maximize NGO input
19. Broad correspondence
20. 1993 meeting to prepare final copy for widespread adoption.
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